After the recognition by America of the Moroccan sovereignty over Western Sahara last December the 10th, King Mohammed VI is pushing his advantage to position Morocco as a pivotal country in the Mediterranean, in order for it to become a trade “Hub” between Europe, Africa, and the Middle East.
Although the decision taken by a Donald Trump at the end of his term was condemned by the Polisario Front and its Algerian sponsors, Morocco aims to become an essential ecological industrial base in North Africa, as well as an important financial and commercial center in the wake of the resumption of diplomatic relations with Israel, a country that has a very large Jewish community coming from Morocco.
Often cited as an example for its rapid reaction to the first wave of the coronavirus, and in particular its ability to mobilize very quickly a 3-billion-euro recovery fund and to manufacture millions of masks in a few weeks, Morocco has been facing since September a second wave of the epidemic that has forced the country to multiply travel restrictions, particularly around the megalopolis of Casablanca, the economic center of the country.
This “second wave” has raised several fears about the country’s ability to withstand the macro-economic shock caused by the very sharp slowdown in activity, as well as its capacity to cope with the consequences at the social level, given the large number of workers in the informal sector. Another source of concern is the ability of Morocco’s hospital sector to withstand a surge in intensive care admissions since the country surpassed 4,000 new cases per day beginning in October 2020. Since then, the level of infections has lowered down, with approximately 2,000 new cases per day in December.
Africa’s Largest Economic Recovery Plan
In mid-summer, during his traditional annual throne speech, the Moroccan sovereign had announced on July the 30th the upcoming creation of a “Strategic Investment Fund Mohammed VI”, whose details were outlined in October 2020 by the Head of State. This fund, which will be endowed with nearly 4.5 billion US dollars, is intended to participate in the vast post-Covid19 economic recovery plan initiated by the Kingdom, which is at the top of the African podium, representing more than 10% of Moroccan GDP (about 12 billion US dollars). The country was holding its breath at a time when restrictive measures raised the possibility of several bankruptcies in the tourism industry, which have been devastated since spring.
A decisive end of the year: U.S. alliance, International debt and vaccine
The sequence begun the week of December 4 proved decisive for Morocco, with the announcement by King Mohammed VI of the generalization and free vaccination campaign, probably with the Chinese laboratory Sinopharm, who has been partnering with Morocco. On December 9th, Reuters confirmed that Morocco had successfully raised nearly 3 billion U.S. dollars through a Eurobond, an operation subscribed nearly three times, confirming markets confidence in the North African country resilience. Thursday, December the 10th, the announcement by U.S. President Donald Trump of the recognition by the United States of Morocco’s sovereignty over the disputed territory of Western Sahara, as well as a resumption of relations with Israel has completed repositioning Morocco as a “Pivotal” country in the area. Negotiated in the greatest secrecy by Mohammed VI himself and the U.S. President for the past three years, this deal has been generally welcomed by great satisfaction in the country, which was expressed in particular on social media.
Right after that, a high-level American-Israeli delegation composed of Jared Kushner, special advisor to the U.S. President and Meir Ben-Shabbat, Israel’s National Security Advisor, was received in Rabat on December the 22nd by the King of Morocco. During this visit, a U.S. investment program of more than 3 billion dollars was announced, as well as the establishment of a regional base of the agency “Prosper Africa”, confirming the “regional Hub” position of the Kingdom.
Renewable, automotive, tourism and aeronautics
Since then, Morocco has been highlighting its status as a pioneer of renewable energy, having the largest solar station in Africa, or its leadership in the automotive and aeronautics industry, which makes it one of the important countries in a Euro-African value chain that is in the midst of rebuilding after the pandemic. However, it remains to be seen how the country will make the most of this advantageous situation in the coming months, when legislative elections are due to be held next autumn. Overall, U.S. support on both the political and economic fronts should translate into a strengthening of Morocco’s regional position, even though the country is considered institutionally and macroeconomically stable in a region that has experienced much turmoil over the past decade.